As I mentor medical students who are learning how to help patients manage their weight, I often ask them what the patient can do at home to help boost their success.
Helping patients be more accountable to themselves with self-monitoring is one of the tools I teach medical students to use in counseling as it helps to drive healthier habits.
We routinely use self-monitoring as a behavior change tool since it accomplishes so much toward new habit formation.
Tracking your behaviors is a form of self-monitoring and when done faithfully, tracking provides unbiased and informative feedback, insightful reflection, accountability, and allows for future planning.
But self-monitoring mustn’t be too burdensome or it won’t be followed long term. And since for most people, weight management is a lifetime endeavor, it’s important to find what works for you over the long run.
If you’re someone who is struggling with weight, here are some tweaks to common self-monitoring practices you may want to consider:
1- Weigh Yourself Daily
I’m starting with this tracking activity because a just published study in the journal Obesity showed that tracking weight daily was an effective weight loss strategy as compared to a control group. This may be a welcome message for those who find daily food and activity tracking too tedious.
To self-monitor weight YOUR WAY, you have options – either keep a written or digital record or note your weight mentally, without judgement, and go on about your day.
If this is something you want to start doing, it’s important that you track weight in a healthy way.
2-Do Intermittent Tracking of YOUR Trigger Foods
Most people can rattle off the foods they eat that signal they’re veering off their healthy lifestyle program. For one person, it may be ordering too much takeout in the middle of the week, for another it may be eating too much ice cream at night and for someone else it may be snacking throughout the day.
To do this YOUR WAY, write down YOUR 3 trigger foods that signal you’re veering off track. When you become aware of these behaviors, commit to tracking these trigger foods (e.g. take out foods, ice cream, snack foods) using a phone app.
Doing food tracking on an intermittent basis can feel less burdensome but still have the benefit of increasing mindfulness.
3-Do Calendar Check Offs for Daily Physical Activity
With long work hours and sedentary jobs, getting daily physical activity can be a challenge. Tracking physical activity using a wrist wearable device is quite popular but it’s not the only way.
Choose a minimum daily physical activity goal of 20 minutes and practice YOUR WAY to reach it. If the weather’s bad and you’re stuck at home, walking at a brisk pace inside (and climbing stairs if you’re able) can help you reach your goal. Certainly, if some days you can get to the gym or do more, that’s great.
Then check it off in your daily calendar. Your paper or digital calendar will be your record of your physical activity accomplishments.
Take satisfaction in seeing what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come.
Getting daily physical activity can be the start of creating YOUR OWN movement portfolio.
Having weight management flexibility like this can help you develop health habits that are more realistic for YOU and better fit YOUR life.
Robert Kushner, MD